Recently, I sat down for an hour with Monte Shaw, a Republican candidate for the 3rd District U.S. Congress. We met for coffee at the Timbuktuu coffee shop in West Des Moines.
My project: My goal is to have a discussion with each of our candidates for the 3rd District U.S. Congress and the U.S. Senate to improve my understanding of where they stand on some of the key issues. I do basic research on their positions so I can focus our discussion time on issues or positions that are of interest to me and other likely primary voters. I prioritize issues where I disagree with them and/or where they appear to disagree with the 2012 Iowa GOP Platform. I then write as concise a summary as possible for sharing in social media. I am not a professional journalist so set your expectations accordingly.
#1. Before addressing the issues that I had prioritized for discussion, I asked if we could discuss a few areas of interest from the 2012 Republican Party of Iowa platform.
I asked him his thoughts about the Criminal Justice system, not limited to but including the recent debate about legalization of marijuana. Regarding the marijuana question, he said he was not in favor of repealing any Federal laws. We also talked about perceived inconsistencies in the laws that affect minorities disproportionately. He said he was open to looking at that more closely.
I asked him about election fraud and potential changes he would support. He said he supported Voter I.D. requirements as do most Americans.
I asked him if he supported “earmarks”. We had a good discussion about this. He is against “earmarks” as a way of leveraging votes out of unwilling legislators. He is skeptical that executive branch bureaucrats are truly fair and omniscient, so he supports legislation that is more specific in defining appropriations and projects.
We had a discussion about the U.S. Constitution and various positions that are aligned with other candidates. He added that he is a student of history and believes strongly in trying to understand the “original intent” of the founders and will act within those limits as a Congressman.
#2. I told him that economic growth was my top priority and that I would appreciate more details about policy changes that he would support.
His general perspective is that we must have strong economic growth to drive higher revenues and reduce deficits. For taxes, in the short term, he would focus on bipartisan actions to simplify the tax code and to provide consistency for individuals and businesses, especially smaller “S corporations”. In the longer term, he favors a flatter or modified “fair” tax that does not overburden the middle class. For spending, in the short term he would slow the rate of growth enough to achieve a balanced budget in 4 years. For spending in the long term, his website has this quote “Each generation deserves the right to determine how they want to be taxed and how they want to spend those dollars”. With that cornerstone, he is strident in assuring retirees and near retirees that they will get the entitlements to which they have contributed and that they were promised. But, he expects to forge a new type of bipartisan retirement program for those generations that follow.
#3. . I asked him to share his thoughts on global alignment with U.S. vital interests.
He believes in a strong military but we must be far more judicious in where, when and how we use it. He believes that the United States should stand with people who want a functional democracy and are willing to make sacrifices to achieve one. He believes that every country has a unique situation but there are cases where the U.S. should provide support, including weapons. As an example, he would support military aid to the Ukraine, a country that he has visited.
#4. I wanted to talk about energy and returnable fuels.
Note: I have included this quote in every previous interview: “I am of the opinion that the subsidies for ethanol and biofuels are too expensive and can’t be justified. It turns out that the Republican platform agrees with me.”
In preparation for this discussion with Monte, I invested more time reading studies on the competitiveness of ethanol vs. traditional gasoline. By the time the interview started, I had educated myself to the point that I more or less agreed with Monte’s firm and unwavering belief that corn based ethanol was competitive on its’ own and provided a host of other benefits. Monte gave me further schooling on the subject, including the inadvertent adverse impact of clean air legislation on alternative fuels development and government subsidized loans for fossil fuel pipelines that are not currently available for ethanol or biodiesel. I found studies from Iowa State and MIT that support the ethanol case so I would encourage the 2014 platform to rethink the anti-ethanol statement.
#5. What is your position on health care beyond repeal of the Affordable Care Act? Is there anything you like about it?
Like most candidates, he favors repeal of Obamacare. He favors legislation: to allow health insurance policies to be sold across state lines, to provide tort reform, and to empower consumers with price transparency. We talked about the tricky problem of portability and pre-existing conditions. He feels these are appropriate goals and that there are a variety of bipartisan ways to achieve them.
Overall Conclusion: Prior to this interview, I had only talked to Monte Shaw once, when he ran successfully last November for an open 3rd District position on the State Central Committee.
My own perspective is that he has strong positions on issues that are important to most conservatives. He is skilled at articulating his positions, explaining them and defending them. He has demonstrated good organization skills in his campaign and has attracted support from across the district. He knows Iowa and Washington DC. His experience is not as lengthy as some of the other candidates but he handles himself quite well. I think he would be a strong candidate and an effective Congressman.
For anyone who wants a more personal perspective on Monte Shaw, you should consider listening to the radio interview he did with Shane Vander Hart and Brian Meyers of Caffeinated Thoughts Radio. It covers a few topics more deeply than I had time to cover. You can listen to the interview by clicking here.
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